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See Hollerith machine.

Hollerith machine

The first automatic data processing system. Developed by Herman Hollerith, a Census Bureau statistician, the machine was first used to count the U.S. census of 1890. It was so successful that Hollerith later formed the Tabulating Machine Company and sold his machines throughout the world for a variety of accounting functions. In 1911, his company merged with another company that was later renamed IBM. Following is the sequence of steps used to count the 1890 census. See punch card.

What a Concept!
This form (top) was filled out by census takers for 62 million Americans, and Electrical Engineer featured the process.

Hollerith's Card Punch
The operator read the census forms and punched holes into dollar-bill-sized cards to represent the data. (Image courtesy of IBM.)

The Punch Card Reader
Each card was placed in the reader, and the handle was pulled down. Spring-loaded pins passed through the holes and closed electrical circuits that incremented the counters. (Image courtesy of The Computer History Museum,

The Hollerith System
After pulling the handle, one of the lids on the sorting box (right) opened, and the operator dropped in the card. Saving the government $5 million, it took three years to count the census instead of a decade. (Image courtesy of The Computer History Museum,

High Tech in 1890
The text at the bottom of this August 1890 issue reads "THE NEW CENSUS OF THE UNITED STATES - THE ELECTRICAL ENUMERATING MECHANISM." (Image courtesy of Scientific American Magazine.)

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